20 March 2012

Great Book: Hard Road West

... In the category of "Why didn't I think of that?" ...  This book is a must-read for anyone with Gold Rush ancestors.

Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.  By Keith Heyer Meldahl.

I have always been interested in geology, as was my father, and many of my fondest family memories relate to rocks and roadside vistas with him.  With lots of maps and illustrations, Meldahl explains the geology of the land surrounding the Oregon and California Trail.  It's an easy read, but maintains the rigor of the science.

The great part is that Meldahl illustrates the geological description with excerpts of the actual journals written by settlers &/or hopeful prospectors as they made the trek in the 1840-50s.  In the preface (p. xv), discussing the trek as the "greatest mass migration in American history," Meldahl explains how the area along the trail is a past that we can see today:
The rocks and mountains of the West have changed little since 1849 (unlike most of the native animal and plant populations and native cultures). The geologic landscape along the trails needs no reenactments, no props, no tricks of animation to re-create historic authenticity. It is genuine. Subtract the buildings, highways, and reservoirs, and you see the landscape much as the emigrants saw it. The past becomes personal when you stand in the old wagon ruts and read what emigrant men and women thought and wrote while looking out at the same scenes. Byron McKinstry, and 1850 pioneer who kept his diary going even through the worst of times, was once chided by a companion, 'My God, McKinstry, why do you write about this trip? All I hope for is to get home, alive, as soon as possible, so that I can forget it!' Luckily for us, there were many McKinstry's on the road west--emigrants who took the time to write, nearly every day, through the months of toil.
All along the trail, the reader learns the geography, geology, and what it looked like or felt to someone actually there at the time.  For instance, on page 210, the caption for a photo of the Humboldt River outside Elko, Nevada, reads:
The steam comes from a hot spring on the riverbank.  This spring flowed more powerfully in emigrant days and was a famous landmark. Forty-niner Wakeman Bryarly described the water as 'boiling hot & sent off steam & heat from its surface, which [was] as hot as the scape pipe of an engine. Even after it ran into the river, it foamed & hissed as cold water poured into hot and sent off steam for 80 yds. below, and extended half over the river.' Many emigrants bathed and washed their clothes here in the spring-warmed river. The ledge and the lumpy, white slope consist of travertine deposits precipitated by the hot water.
The book is very well documented with many notes and an 8-page bibliography.  No less than two of those pages are emigrant history books or journals.Some of the many surnames quoted include Ackley, Bryarly, Delano, McCall, and Searls.

I don't have gold rush ancestry, but my grandparents met outside Elko and several of the great-greats lived, farmed, or mined in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri.  So, I know they would have seen many of the same vistas described and explained by Meldahl.  I hope I've done this book justice and that you can tell how much I enjoyed it.

17 March 2012

Hidden Records: Irish Origins in Kentucky Records

The seemingly endless quest to "prove" the ancestry of my Amos Richardson and his wife Betsy Hicks, I was recently reading the Order books, 1808-1938, of the Estill County, Kentucky, Court ( FHL 254,638, Item #1) for the period up to about 1860.  I was hoping to get lucky but, alas, there were no surprises or great leads for me. But maybe these excerpts will be a surprise for someone else?!
John Keller, p. 109

The FHL catalog description for this fillm summarizes these records as court records, officials and employees, and probate records.  I was reading along in this mish-mash of fairly boring records when I suddenly found 6 pages of records on three Irish immigrants!  I've read a good deal of county court records and I have never seen anything like these six pages.

Long ago I gave up realistic expectations of ever finding the origins of my Irish immigrant Keating and Dooley lines: it's just a dream now for me to accidentally stumble on it.  Perhaps that's why these records in the middle of very boring, common day-to-day proceedings in Estill County hit me so hard.

Here are my quick extracts of the highlights.  Of course, interested researchers must check the original records.

Timothy DAILEY, 38, County Cork
Hamilton County OH at age 34
Emigrated from Canada 1 Jul 1848
Arrived Cleveland 10 July 1848
Appeared Estill 1 Aug 1855

Humphrey Moynihan, p. 107
Humphrey MOYNIHAN, about 28 years of age
County of Kerry, Ireland
Document from Bourbon KY 11 Aug 1855

Emigrated from Liverpool
Arrived NY 10 May 1848
Timothy Daliley testified for him: 5 years USA & 1 year in KY

I really  do hope that this info helps someone else celebrate this St. Patrick's Day.  Maybe there's still hope for me, too....

11 March 2012

Other things to do at Jamboree

Jamboree, the annual convention of the Southern California Genealogy Society, is coming soon, June 8-10!
Keep up at the official Jamboree blog

It's time to consider making your visit a real genealogy research trip!  Here are some great places nearby (or what passes for nearby in Greater LA County) and links to their websites:

Given the local importance of the convention itself, I strongly recommend that you call each location and inquire about their hours around the time of the convention.

SCGS Library  --  2.4 miles from the convention
Very good library: especially strong for New England, Germany, and Southern California.  Good online catalog.  Obviously worth a visit!

Immigrant Genealogical Society Library  --  3 miles from the convention
Especially strong in German areas.  Very nice people; I've made some great finds of otherwise obscure info here.

Sons of the Revolution: American Heritage Library and Museum  --  8 miles from the convention
From their website: "The Library specializes in genealogical and early American history resources with emphasis on the Colonial and Revolutionary War period. It also has a fine collection of 18th and 19th century vital records, family histories, American military history and English genealogy."  Good online catalog; otherwise, the website is a bit tricky.

The convention won't affect these sites, but still check their hours....
Los Angeles Public Library  --  15 miles from the convention
OK, y'a gotta go to downtown LA, but this is a super genealogy collection in the basement of the Central Library.  And, contrary to popular opinion, there is public transportation in LA: you can get there.  Excellent online catalog, but note that their holdings are NOT in WorldCat.  Excellent periodical holdings, huge collection of county histories, and lots, lots more. Gary Boyd Roberts of NEHGS once told me that he always goes here when he come to LA because they have many items not in Boston!

Los Angeles Family History Library  --  20 miles from the convention
I don't  know if it's still true after the remodeling, but this used to be the largest FHC in the West (outside of SLC, of course).  Especially strong in UK; special collections for, among others, Polish, Latin America, and Jewish.  Easy to check their holdings from online.

Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
Specifically, the  office at 12400 Imperial Highway in Norwalk --  28 miles from the convention
It is still possible to go to this office to search for and see birth, marriage, and death records for Los Angeles County on the spot. Neither photocopies, photographs, nor scans are permitted, but you can extract anything you want from "allowed" records at no cost.  You don't want official copies, you just want to go to the basement and view records.  Once in the basement office, you will have to fill out forms: Have the names/dates you are going to search and your ID ready.

Many of the local community libraries also have genealogy rooms/holdings.  Pasadena, Pomona, and Huntington Beach are some of the largest.  Whittier College Library holds the Whittier Area Genealogy Society collection. 

Have a great trip!  See you at Jamboree!

09 March 2012

Ideas, etc.

[WARNING: This post contains a shameless plug. What can I say? I'm a proud wife.]

Gosh, it's been a while ... but I think I'm back...!  Some things I've learned recently:

If your spouse writes a book, it will seriously affect the time you have for genealogy research, blogging, etc. And, even once it's published, marketing is indeed a full-time job.  The best part may be that now you know you have to be a two-computer household and your spouse really owes you....

If you break your elbow, it will seriously affect your research, blogging, etc....!

One Place Studies seems like a great source for British Isles sites on places, both history and genealogy.  It makes me want to do one for Huttons Ambo or Weaverthorpe or most any town in New England or Morgan County, Missouri or ....

Too many ideas, too little time...